Abstracts’ at the Marion Art Center

For more than a century, museums and galleries have exhibited works of art – painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and more – that can be described as “abstract”.

Sometimes it was celebrated. At times it was met with cynicism, contempt and derision, often punctuated with the long-awaited clichéd comment: “My kid could do that.”

But how to define abstract art? Are they Jackson Pollock’s drippings or Helen Frankenthaler’s “soak stains”? Is it Kandinsky’s “Composition V” of 1911? The visionary paintings of Swedish mystic Hilma af Klint? The Venus of Willendorf? Handprints on a cave wall?

Picasso said: “There is no abstract art. You always have to start with something, then you can remove any semblance of reality; there is no longer any danger because the idea of ​​the object has left an indelible imprint.

Painter Milford Zornes said, “All art is abstract because art is an abstraction of truth.”

Thus, all art is a deviation from reality. A tree painting is not a tree, a nude painting is not a nude. It is a divergent reality. To tap into the pop culture zeitgeist, this is a variant of the multiverse. This is a lie. And if a realistic painting is a lie (and of course it is), perhaps the more abstract the work, the bigger the lie.

Tulip and Rose by Pat Coomey Thornton

But the lie serves a purpose: it conveys different realities that ultimately connect humanity to the world as a whole, as culture mirrors nature through distortion, whether gentle or wild.

The current exhibition at the Marion Art Center features three painters who dive into the depths of the pool of abstraction, take a deep dive, and do their tricks with perfectly executed strokes.

Rachels Cove by Alyn Carlson

Pat Warwick

Several of Pat Warwick’s works are only marginally abstract as there remains a clear and unapologetic connection to the “reality” of landscape painting.

Aftermath by Pat Warwick

In “Aftermath,” a band of gray across the top outlines a horizon over a swamp of amber, brown, and olive green streaks that replicate a field. A small red flag hangs from a twisted wire on a twisted pole and it shows a bit that it’s just a little lie.

Warwick’s “Wintermarsh” features yellow strokes and black shadows that suggest hay straws protruding from a grayish-blue mound of snow. She disrupts the usual spatial relationship of a “realistic” painting by flattening the picture plane, so that foreground and background become one.

With “Overview”, Warwick becomes more playful with color and composition, with the whisper of a tree to one side; while she goes totally non-objective in “Too Much Talk”, with a love for brushstroke, mark-making and absurdist calligraphy.

Flowers by Pat Coomey Thornton

Pat Coomey Thornton

Pat Coomey Thornton’s abstractions are bold, whimsical explosions of color that are often (but not always) inspired by floral designs. With thick curved lines of lavender, blue, orange, scarlet, pink and more in “Blossoms,” she created a tightly choreographed visual dance.

The push and pull plays with the viewer’s sense of space. Barely there, but nonetheless there are intangible shapes – curved leaves, flower petals – that both loom and recede into the background.

Thornton’s “petals” are suggested more by the power of the title than by a clear depiction of said petals. Curls of off-white seem to restrict earth tone squiggles and roller coaster curves in space behind everything.

With the larger scale “Starting Point”, Thornton celebrates color itself. While cavorting with thick swirls of avocado green, cherry red and tangerine, it’s the cool electric blue that steals the show.

If Warwick lies a little with his landscape references and Thornton lies a little more with his botanical inspirations, it is Alyn Carlson who is the biggest liar. Even with evocative and descriptive titles, most of his works were cut from whole cloth. It’s an invention.

Alyn Carlson

And that’s not a bad thing. She is the purest abstraction of the trio.

Carlson’s “Butter Sky East” is a beautiful arrangement of decidedly murky colors that interact with restraint and dignity. Her “Rachel’s Cove” is a mix of hues, including Band-Aid beige, bright cornflower blue and dried blood red, that work remarkably well together. His “North End Gloaming 522” reveals no urban twilight but reveals an affinity for de Kooning.

Carlson’s “Aqua Linea 400” is an exciting painting that suggests a greater connection to something outside of the painting itself than any of his others. It’s easy to imagine a distortion of a cityscape: a bright orange sunset over an elevated train in Chicago or Queens.

Butter Sky East by Alyn Carlson

Look carefully out of the windows. Do you see the blonde sitting in cropped trousers looking at a book or a cell phone? See the straphanger in the long green coat?

Nope? Maybe I’m lying. Or not.

“Profusion of Color: Abstracts” is on display at the Marion Art Center, 80 Pleasant Street, Marion until June 25.

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